Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Sacred Art of Not Writing

During a recent conversation with a friend I was given a not so subtle hint that I was neglecting my blog and, therefore, my writing. I protested: I am writing… just not there. Not good enough, she said. She’s right, of course. Even though I am in the midst of working on a collection of short stories and therefore putting time into my writing practice, a commitment is a commitment: I need to blog.

Ironically I was saying something similar to someone else just last week. I had arranged to do a 30-day challenge with him in which you write 500 or more words a day and submit to the other for comments: one comment about what works and another stating what needs work. I had just finished a similar challenge in August and found it extremely satisfying when, that is, it was not excruciatingly, mind blottingly difficult. Out of that challenge I got about twenty-four short stories of which I am now reworking and making readable. My friend, in this new challenge, reneged on the first day and pleaded a week’s extension. I agreed. He reneged again. I phoned him and said, “500 words tomorrow. I don’t care if it dribble … it probably will be dribble, it doesn’t matter. One, you made a commitment and two, if you want to write, you got to write, period.”

I was feeling kind of smug as I was in the creative mode and actually writing everyday but smugness has a way of pushing my eyes open till they bleed the truth. Sure I was writing but it is just recently that I had managed an “everyday” routine and, more to the point, I was just as brilliant as my friend in devising ways not to write. I sit down at my computer, for example, and fatigue will come over me and I have to lie down. I rest for twenty minutes and, sitting back up with a great idea, be overcome with hunger. I’ll find a hair on my leg that got missed while waxing; get thirsty, have to dental floss, stretch, or have a perishing need to call the automated weather service. Last week, to both my horror and delight, I cleaned out two of my junk drawers.

Now you may ask why cleaning a junk drawer can elicit such emotion. Good question. I have a long history with these compartments of wonder and cleaning them can seem, well, irreverent. I wrote a story about junk drawers four years ago (see below) which may enlighten my distress. But, coming back to my cleaning them out last week, what it really shows is the depths I can go in the avoidance of actual writing… I will even desecrate a sacred altar, otherwise known as the Lady of the Junk Drawer.

Our Lady of the Junk Drawer

I have a fondness for junk drawers. I love them in fact. I always have one, usually two and, on occasion, three. In there is the answer to all problems. Need a screwdriver? A paperclip? Candle for the cake? The junk drawer. Curtains need hanging? A felt pen? A twist tie? The junk drawer is your answer. Why just as I was researching this story, I found the phone cord I have been thinking of buying. Saved me seven bucks! Junk drawers are grand, they give me hope.

What a grand thing, hope. Growing up, I watched my older sister gradually fill her hope chest with dreams of the future. It was a combination trust fund and wedding planner overlaid with a wellspring of pride: a modern day dowry. I never really knew what she was putting in there– it was her private domain – but ever so often you could see her opening it up and adding something to the pile. It was part of the mystery of becoming an adult, one day I too would have my own box, my own source of wonder.

I was inspired early on to seek that sense of wonder. In the spare bedroom cum formal dinning room we had a floor to ceiling bookcase. It was filled with your typical kitsch: snowfall scenes in sparkly water filled domes; football pennets; tacky orange glazed vases and ceramic “Lassies”, alert and ready for Timmy’s call. I spent many an hour examining all its inherent treasures but it was the sparkle that lay above my reach that held me in thrall. Sometimes when courage got the better of sanity, I would climb the lower shelves and ever so carefully peer over the edge in anticipated delight. I was never disappointed. Whether it was a dust filled bowl of spare change or a lucky rabbit foot key chain it was a cornucopia of pleasure.

Later years I tried transferring that joy of quiet exploration to the empty lot across the street, old musty book stalls and curiosity shops but they never quite met my expectations. Perhaps it was the knowledge that what lay on those dusty alters were somehow related to me. My family was not close knit nor strong in their ability to communicate thoughts or feelings. Those trinkets – contemporary family heirlooms – connected me in a way that human relationships could not. They rooted my fragile sense of being-ness to something solid: the mess and disorder of the dining rooms shelves was not only my joy, but my safety.

With this lineage, it is no wonder that I love junk drawers but it was not always so.
For many years, I took them for granted: doesn’t every family have one? In a way I treated my junk drawer like a prayer: I didn’t look to it until I was really in need. Save me now (oh God) and I promise to be good; please be in there (oh Junk Drawer) and I promise to clean you. The funny thing is, both Spirit and Junk Drawer don’t care for that kind of attention. What is more important is how I honour them as part of myself. You see, the secret of the Junk Drawer is not so much that it holds answers and gives hope but that it mirrors my mind. Just as Spirit manifests through my soul and I feel comfort in that connection, the chaotic meanderings of my thoughts are reflected in the anarchy of the drawer: like meets like and I feel peace and tranquility. Yet there is more to this than a homeopathic metaphor. The brain seeks solutions to its internal chaos while the Junk Drawer surrenders to it. Where the mind empowers action, the Junk Drawer just is. The Junk Drawer, much like the yogi sitting in calm stillness amidst the fervency of modern day life, is part of, yet detached from the chaos. Rather than the coming together of similar energies, then, it is the union of the male and female – the active and the passive aspects of who we are – that truly restores a sense of calmness. The Junk Drawer, for all its innate pandemonium, reunites me with my feminine self and brings balance to my otherwise dominate male side.

Stop, you say? Enough silliness? You understand how junk drawers give hope and inspiration but truly, connecting it to the feminine and finding balance in one’s life is a bit of a stretch. How can a box of chaos compete with rubbing the Buddha’s belly, a weekend meditation retreat or saying a few “Hail Marys”? Well, sit down grasshopper (mind the rice paper, though) and learn. The Junk Drawer is about to expand your mind.

One can always trust the Junk Drawer. She, the Junk Drawer that is, is intuitive about needs but patient in waiting for requests. She is eclectic with her own sense of language, revels in the art of disorder yet trusts what will be will be. She decries rule making and rigidity, preferring anarchy over hierarchy and, as noted earlier, is chaotic. But just like the chaos that gave birth to Mother Earth, the Junk Drawer (JD or, more formally, Our Lady of the Junk Drawer) is the wellspring of creativity. From chaos to form and back again, the Lady continually reinvents herself: a modern day Phoenix arising from the ashes of enforced structure.

The Junk Drawer is a comforting presence in a world where organized sport is considered healthier than spontaneous play and performance is elevated above creativity; where air conditioning is preferred over a cool breeze and swimming in the ocean is passed over for the chlorinated pool. She is the one that eats a second piece of chocolate cake and sits around all day reading whatever she pleases; dances to the moon at midnight and feeds the crows from her window. The Junk Drawer in all her chaotic stillness and creative intuitiveness is the feminine incarnate.

With JD as my new feminine symbol my inner chaos will experience its mirror and finally come to rest. In meditation, while still imagining roots sinking deep inside the earth I will now visualize corkscrews and napkin holders at the core, sitting idly into the night. The Lady’s motto will become mine: I sit and await in detached passion; my being-ness is all that matters. Safety will be nurtured by the assurance that all I ever need is close at hand while the chaotic and uncomfortable feelings of the past will be welcomed into the mosaic of who I am today.

I imagine it now: a new path created and the dawning of a new era. Goddess followers, Wiccan priestesses, and earth worshippers will forgo all previous incarnations of the feminine: nature, fertility statues, the colour pink and Easter hats. Women will still run with the wolves, belly dance and gossip over coffee but they will do so now with reference to their inner Junk Drawer. Chaos will be respected and all households will have one, preferably two, alters in ever changing permanence. Balance will be restored as the Yang of our past will come to terms with the Yin of our presence. Men and women of the world unite as the Lady of the Junk Drawer reawakens in us all.

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